December 2021

On the Training of Perception

I recently eavesdropped on an interesting conversation. It was between the tutor and another participant on a wood-carving course I’d gone on, and it was about the teaching of visual art. They were discussing how the focus on a conceptual approach means people don’t necessarily learn specific technical skills. A particular anecdote was of a drawing class in which the instructor demonstrated how to draw a foot, using a method that produced a generic foot, rather than a specific representation of the actual foot of the person modelling for the class. People aren’t taught, they agreed, how to look.

The conversation moved on from there to a variety of techniques and exercises each of them had experienced that trained you to see what was in front of you in terms of the relationship between its constituent parts – the angles, the planes, the proportions – rather than in terms of your knowledge of what it actually is. You see most accurately, they suggested, when you dissociate vision from content.

A Snapshot of Barbershop’s Culture Change, Part 2: Arranging Styles

My previous post about the experience of sorting through a packet of music from a barbershop chorus of the 1980s got a bit long, so I decided to save the rest of my observations for a second post.

The third main impression was that, as well as the pervasiveness of nostalgia in the songs’ subject matter, it was striking how nearly everything fit very safely into the core barbershop style. Primarily homophonic, melody in the second voice down, harmonic progressions, chord choices and voicings all very orthodox. It would pretty much all pass muster as ‘contest-suitable’ these days in terms the arrangement choices – though of course a lot of it probably wouldn’t have worked so well back in the 1980s when the scoring of contest arrangements still took a weirdly tick-box approach.

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